“New Girl” review: “Birthday”

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No matter what anyone says, they want a big deal to be made about their birthday. We want to feel special, appreciated even. It’s the anniversary of…being here. No one should spend their b-day alone…in the dark…at the movies.

That’s what Jess has done annually and expects this year, but now she has Nick for a boyfriend. He and their group of friends want to set up a surprise for her this year (makes you wonder why they never did something like this the past two years, knowing how disappointing this day has been). This even means Nick has to get up in the morning. That’s commitment.

This was a very good episode of a stronger second half of season three for New Girl. Now that some lingering character dilemmas (the Schmidt and CeCe breakup/fallout, Jess and Nick dealing with their feelings, Winston’s…stuff) have been dealt with and some development has been seen, the show has really found the things that consistently work.

It means a lot that someone like Nick, someone without a bank account, understanding of technology and girly things, would go out of his way to make sure Jess has a great birthday. (But not before free diabetes testing! And finding the biggest rock! And hijacking some kid’s birthday in the park!) Jake Johnson has taken over as the anchor of this show. Max Greenfield’s Schmidt can be very funny, but can also be unlikable at times, and Zooey Deschanel’s Jess can be a little too cutesy and childlike. Nick is the mature realist, brought to life by Johnson, who wasn’t as physically funny as he’s been in other episodes but was just as effective with the sweeter, acting moments (see Drinking Buddies! Now on Netflix! I’m not getting paid for this plug, trust me!) with Jess during and after the surprise at the movie theater. Deschanel was fantastic as well.

The so-so stuff with Winston and Coach competing over Jess’ cake was kinda what you had to do with them in this episode, I guess; the moist cake bit with Coach was funny, though. Not much room for them with the CeCe and Schmidt B story, in which CeCe was left alone to tend bar and deal with the unkind bar manager (Ben Falcone). In case you were one of those wondering how CeCe (she of no bartending skills) was doing with the new job, you got an answer. Schmidt helping his overwhelmed and vulnerable ex-girlfriend out during her tough night opens the door to another chance at a relationship. Don’t know if I yet buy CeCe letting that happen after all the crap Schmidt did, though, and she made a point of them just being friends.

A very solid and sweet New Girl ep.